Now, I dug Watchmen. The sucker punch of an ending, the horror of the Black Freighter, the loneliness of Doc Manhattan – there's nothing I can say that hasn't already been said by the likes of TIME Magazine. Of course, I view a movie adaptation with a bit of trepidation, but after Lord of the Rings, I don't think anything is truly unfilmable.
But the fandom is wearing me out. I have many friends who love the graphic novel, and I practically dread any news release because it causes such a flurry of panic and disgust among them. The character stills, which I found promising and exciting, were met with not only skepticism, but weeks of pondering. Why were the stills photoshopped? Why were the actors so young? Why were they posed in action shots? On and on it went, my own casual theories – maybe they were just having fun, maybe these are from the heyday of the heroes – dismissed. No, couldn't be! It was simply that Snyder had messed up, end of story, and the movie was doomed.
Then came the first set video, which I found to be fantastic. I found the dedication to detail astounding – and, frankly, a confirmation that Snyder knows what he's doing. Would a director intent on accurately reproducing the background graffiti and the fine points of the Gunga Diner really screw with the ending? I can't find the logic in that. Yet the absence of electric cars confirms everyone's worst fears.
But that's beside the point, really. I can't say whether Snyder's devotion is a shallow one, that he sees the surface of the book and not the substance. It's too early to know and I don't want to have to eat my hat if Watchmen turns out to be terrible. No, it is more that the movie doesn't come out until 2009, and I'm already utterly worn out by the discussion of it. And I think, ultimately, this is where geeky passion becomes self-destructive. I can shout at the t.v. when my hockey team misses an open net, I can fume when they make a foolish player trade. But ultimately, sports fans are easily mollified. Their annoyance never reaches the point that nothing the team does satisfies them – because eventually, the team wins, and everyone's happy.
With geeks, it's different. We can spend so much time hating on something that there is no possible way the movie will satisfy us. When the Watchmen set video prompts you to write an essay complaining about how it differs from a particular panel, or how the women's hairstyles and men's suits are all wrong ... well, come on. Sometimes, fandom reaches such a point of anguish that, surely, it defeats even your love for the original source. And across that threshold is where we geeks earn a bad name -- it is a line we really need to start recognizing.
I'm picking on the Alan Moore fans – and I apologize, they are far from alone. Frankly, I've seen it with plenty of things. I discovered Stephen Sondheim fans were incredibly cultish after I declared that Sweeney Todd was "awesome." We know a girl who refused to see it because her love for the original music was too strong. "There's no possible way the movie can be good. None. The original music is practically religious." I love Sondheim lyrics, but – really? Comparable to Mozart's Requiem? Even my sister's boyfriend (who impersonates Jack Sparrow for a living) cannot sit through a pirate movie, not even the one that created his job, without pointing out they are using the wrong era of cutlass or rapier, and that the boots are from far too late a century. Where is the perspective?
Now, I know half the fun of being a geek is bitching about something. Marvel crossovers, the way George Lucas raped your childhood, Hollywood remakes, Joel Schumacher, flames on Optimus Prime . . . the list goes on and on. There's only so many times you can declare your love for Wolverine or Iron Man – somehow, anger over Greedo shooting first is always easier and more fun. And I confess I'm not innocent of insane geekdom. When Robert Zemeckis' Beowulf was released, I railed to anyone who would listen. It was bad timing, really, as my college specialty was medieval literature, and I was fresh off my thesis in Anglo-Saxon poetry. (It holds the school record for length.) Woe to anyone who said it was "incredibly accurate to the poem," because I would go on for hours about how Beowulf was a hero known for his humility and kindness. Beowulf wasn't a braggart, it was that no one involved understood the Anglo-Saxon culture of boasting. I was only stopped from quoting original Old English from the fact that the runes won't post well on a message board. Everyone must have hated me. I know this now. And I doubt that my original intent (to drive everyone to buying a scholarly translation and reading it for themselves) was ever achieved – people must have loathed all things Heorot after I was done with them.
And ultimately, what I came to realize is that the poem will always be there – and that people will read it, and discover all the things J.R.R. Tolkien loved, and that I was so passionate about. The movie came and went, the hollowness exposed, but the poem endures. So will George Hearn's performance in Sweeney Todd, and so will Watchmen. And I know that obsessive fandom will endure just as long – I just wish it could be more fun. Why can't we say how much Jeffrey Dean Morgan looks like the Comedian – and how it is really good casting? That we wish the Gunga Diner was real so we could eat there?
I don't know. Maybe I'm getting too Pollyanna, but it seems like this is just such a fantastic time to be a geek. It's finally socially acceptable, and it's suddenly big money. My concern is that the dark and obsessive side of fandom will completely kill it – that directors like Snyder (a proud geek himself -- the man proudly wears a "Han Shot First" shirt) will just give up in frustration. Hollywood will turn its back, completely worn out with trying to maintain a balance of accuracy and accessibility. Because how can anyone really work when the first official stills doom a film, because Superman's shield is all wrong? And that, my friends, is my long winded point. If you find your fingers hovering on your keyboard, ready to rant that the Spirit's mask is black, not blue . . . stop. Think twice. Take a deep breath. Remember that it will always be blue on the page, and that no matter how awful the movie, you'll soon have new fans to discuss the characters with. And maybe one day, one of you will become a self-made trillionaire and make your own Spirit movie. But until then, it's just not worth the anguish. Watch, wait, analyze, discuss, maybe even expect the worst – but have some hope for the best.